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Small wildfire forces evacuation of campers in Arizona

June 17, 2021 GMT

STRAWBERRY, Ariz. (AP) — A small wildfire near Strawberry has forced the evacuation of campers and the shutdown of a popular recreation area.

The fire started shortly before midnight Wednesday, about 12 miles west of Strawberry near a ridge named Ike’s Backbone. It has burned about 150 acres (60 hectares) around where Fossil Creek meets the Verde River.

The Coconino National Forest closed Fossil Creek, a popular spot for hiking and swimming, because of the wildfire.

Firefighters who had been working on another blaze that has nearly wrapped up in Cornville responded to the one near Strawberry. More resources were on the way Thursday, including aircraft, the Forest Service said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Several other wildfires are burning in Arizona amid of period of intense heat across the U.S. Southwest.

Residents of the largest wildfire that has burned nearly 259 square miles (670 square kilometers) in Pinal and Gila counties are in various stages of evacuation.

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Operations Section Chief Todd Abel said crews were focused Thursday on the southern end of the fire where it was advancing, partly because of wind gusts. Heat also has hampered firefighting efforts from the air, he said.

The so-called Telegraph Fire started June 4 and is 72% contained.

Another wildfire that started about a week later in the Santa Teresa Mountains in southern Arizona also has forced evacuations and the closure of federal land. The fire has burned 27 square miles (70 square kilometers) and is 15 percent contained.